US Joins Brazil in Attack on Africa/ India Group Proposal on Agri Stockholding

[ABS News Service/08.07.2024]

Geneva – The United States appears to have raised a red flag against a draft proposal submitted by the African Group at the World Trade Organization Doha negotiating body on agriculture Friday, stating that it represents a “rolling back from the high degree of convergence” achieved with the Chair's negotiation text.

At a meeting of the Doha negotiating body on Agriculture, which is referred to as the Committee on Agriculture Special Session, Washington urged the African Group to exercise “restraint” from repeating its “extreme” positions and to “restore the balance of the text”, said people familiar with the developments.

The United States extended support to Brazil’s proposal that is being pursued in the ongoing informal meetings, even though many countries distanced from the Brazilian process on grounds that it would undermine the established institutional structures at the WTO, said people familiar with the development.

Brazil Ready to Work with AG

Brazil, meanwhile, said it is ready to immediately engage with the African Group to “incorporate the key elements” of the latter’s new submission into a Brazil-proposed roadmap for the talks. Brazil’s statement came following a green room meeting convened by WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala between Brazil and some members of the African Group.

China and the European Union seem to have expressed mixed concerns about the African Group’s proposal. China welcomed the priority issues highlighted in the African Group proposal but cautioned against insisting on a roadmap that pushes for sequencing of the mandated issues.

At the WTO’s 13th ministerial conference that concluded in Abu Dhabi on March 2, China supported the final draft. Beijing noted that the MC13 agriculture talks failed because “some member” insisted on sequencing at the last minute – an apparent dig at India.

Several South American countries, including members of the farm exporting Cairns Group, have not raised opposition to the Brazilian informal process so far, said people familiar with the discussions.

Developing Countries Back AG Plan

In contrast, many developing countries, including India; Indonesia, on behalf of the Group of 33 developing countries; the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group and least-developed countries supported the African Group proposal to achieve “meaningful and concrete” outcomes at MC14.

Many developing countries oppose the informal Brazilian process on grounds it would undermine the established and mandated institutional structures at the WTO, said people familiar with the discussions.

The new African Group proposal comes two months after Brazil spearheaded an informal process aimed at garnering support for a roadmap to be adopted at the General Council meeting on July 22-23.

Brazil said, at the COASS, that members “still have time to make progress before the July General Council meeting.” Brazil indicated its plan to consult with the African Group starting from Friday.

“(Our) experts have been getting into considerable (technical) details, discussing (subsidy) reduction formula, product specific limits, green box, Public Stockholding, etc,” Brazil said.

G10 farm-defensive countries, including Japan, Switzerland and Norway among others, highlighted the importance of transparency in export restriction measures. They emphasized equal treatment for all agriculture reform topics, particularly export restrictions, alongside domestic support and market access, said people familiar with the developments.

Doha negotiating body on Agriculture Chair Ambassador Alparslan Acarsoy of Türkiye, said he is going to start “Quad-Plus” meetings after the summer break.

The “quad-plus” is a negotiation forum dedicated to cotton involving the Cotton-4 countries and several major cotton players, such as Australia, Brazil, China, the EU, India, Pakistan and the United States among others.